When Howie Roseman was asked about the possibility of trading out of the first round, the Eagles executive gave an answer that would sound more provocative if nearly every other NFL team wasn’t making the same pre-draft pitch.
“I would say overall we’re open for business,” Roseman said last week. “We’re open for business in every round if we think it’s something that makes sense for our team.”
In the seven previous drafts he ran, Roseman made 17 trades during the three-day event. So, yes, the Eagles will be open for business when this year’s draft opens with Thursday night’s first round.
But Roseman has been just as proficient in player acquisition. While he has dealt only one Eagle during the actual draft, the hyperactivity of the NFL switchboard during the draft increases the probability that he will find a partner for several expendable players on the roster – hence the overall part of his answer.
The Eagles need draft picks, and if linebacker Mychal Kendricks, or cornerback Ronald Darby, or running back Wendell Smallwood, or even guard Isaac Seumalo can fetch Roseman another selection, or add to the bounty for a higher pick, he has shown that he won’t be reluctant to pull the trigger.
With only a first-round pick in the rounds 1-3, the normally active Roseman might be hard-pressed to twiddle his thumbs for two rounds. The Eagles don’t exactly have a commodity that could procure a second- or third-round selection in return – unless some team finally matches the demands for quarterback Nick Foles – but Kendricks is the most likely to be moved.
The linebacker has been on the market before. Last offseason, the Eagles were initially seeking a fifth-round pick when the league year opened. But some interested teams balked under the assumption they would be able to sign him to a more feasible contract once he was released.
Kendricks, who asked for a trade following the 2016 season, ultimately stayed. He might not have been pleased at first, but when Jordan Hicks suffered a season-ending injury in October, Kendricks took his snaps in nickel personnel and played solid football.
There’s a strong enough argument to keep Kendricks for another season, considering the uncertainty surrounding the oft-injured Hicks’ return from an Achilles rupture, but the Eagles have already signed two free-agent linebackers – Corey Nelson and Paul Worrilow.
Nelson said he was told by the Eagles he would compete for the weakside linebacker spot – Kendricks’ position. Worrilow, mostly a middle linebacker, would be insurance for Hicks. And there’s still the draft. Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans are plausible options for the Eagles with the 32nd overall pick.
Kendricks’ name was once again being tossed around NFL trade circles when free agency opened on March 14 – an annual occurrence, as Roseman noted at the NFL owners meetings last month – but now may be the time to part with the Eagles’ 2012 second-round pick. He’s 27, still in his prime, and has only two years left on his contract.
With the Eagles having already discussed Kendricks with other teams – and they still have three days to work the phones — it shouldn’t be difficult to drop a line even when they’re on the clock.
“The next week is a chance when we try to get to talk to every team in the league,” Roseman said. “I’m sure you’ll see a lot of reports – ‘This team is talking to this team’ – but that’s our job. … It’s very hard when you’re on the clock to sit there and dial all these teams and figure it out, or to take all the calls.”
Two weeks ago, the Eagles seemingly had enough depth to part with one of their cornerbacks. But that was before Daryl Worley, who was acquired in exchange for receiver Torrey Smith, was released hours after he was arrested and tased near the team facility by Philadelphia police.
Worley wasn’t guaranteed a starting spot with the Eagles, but he gave the Eagles options if a cornerback-needy team came after, say, Ronald Darby. Why Darby? No. 1, he was inconsistent last season, and was exposed in the Super Bowl. And No. 2, he has just one year left on his rookie (read: cheap) contract.
The Eagles still have Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas to compete for the two outside spots, but they don’t have an obvious replacement for Patrick Robinson, who left via free agency, in the slot. In other words, dealing Darby would take a leap of faith about Jones and Douglas’ readiness.
Asked if Worley’s release made the Eagles less likely to field calls about dealing a corner, Roseman said, “Who says we haven’t gotten calls?”
A call is one thing. Saying yes is another. It might be hard to turn down an offer for Smallwood, who has struggled with injuries and drifted down the depth chart behind Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement last season. But the Eagles are currently light at running back with LeGarrette Blount off to the Lions and Darren Sproles’ future still in question.
The last time Roseman traded a tailback during the draft he struck gold, sending Bryce Brown to the Bills for essentially a fourth-round pick. Chip Kelly, who ran the Eagles’ personnel in 2015, would trade that fourth-rounder for a 2016 third-rounder that Roseman would include in the package to move up for quarterback Carson Wentz.
There aren’t many complaints about the Eagles having so few picks this season; they might not have a Super Bowl championship had they not parted with a second-rounder (to help get Wentz), third-rounder (Darby) and fourth-rounder (Ajayi).
“We made these trades also with guys that weren’t necessarily just here for one year,” Roseman said. “But it doesn’t make it any easier, especially when you look at [vice president of player personnel] Joe [Douglas] and his staff and all the time they put in, to sit there on Friday and potentially have a golf outing.”
Some expect Roseman to trade out of the first round, which would cancel the golf outing, and gain at least another pick. But there are other ways to replenish the haul, and thinking outside the box (tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, for instance) could help the Eagles land one of their top targets in this year’s draft.
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